Since I know that free play is critically important to young children’s development (doesn’t everyone know that?), I’ve been really disturbed by the recent articles on recess coaches. But I was especially saddened when I read an op-ed in Friday’s New York Times by David Elkind, the author of The Hurried Child, a man I consider to be the grandfather of reasonable parenting.
Elkind readily admitted that in the past he would have been opposed to recess coaches. But he states that childhood as we knew it has disappeared, that the culture of childhood no longer exists, and that children no longer experience peer socialization. Rather than calling for an end to all of the nonsense, though, he writes that recess coaches are likely to be a good influence.
I think Elkind has set up a false dichotomy. If kids don’t know how to play anymore, then we need to give them time to play. If kids don’t have time for play, then we need to ensure that they have time to play. But we don’t have to either abolish recess in favor of more academics or have recess coaches. We need to let children play. And we need to let schools know that we won’t abide an end to real recess altogether.